New Phase in US Relations With the Muslim World

  • 4 June 2009

Since his arrival to the White House, US President Barack Obama has been trying to build bridges of trust with the Muslim world. In his inaugural statement as US President he clearly stated his intention of building a new path in relations with Muslims, based on mutual interest and respect. Ever since, Obama has been striving to attain this goal, and has ordered the closure of the highly unpopular Guantanamo Bay prison camps within a year. In his speech to the Turkish parliament, he stated that US was not and would never be at war with Islam. He called for a major partnership between America and the Islamic world to defeat Al-Qaeda movement.

As part of his conciliatory tone, President Obama’s statement at ‘Cairo University’ today marked the beginning of a new stage in US relations with the Islamic world. His statements over the past two days confirm this new approach and raise hope. In an interview with the BBC, he affirmed his commitment towards eliminating the misunderstanding that has developed between Muslims and the West. He expressed hope that his statement in Cairo would represent the beginning of a new dialogue so that the Islamic world understands how the US and the West in general tackle some difficult issues, such as terrorism and democracy.

Obama realizes that his country’s relations with the Muslim world were severely affected during the eight years of the Bush administration, because of the Iraq war and the neglect of the festering issues in the Middle East, especially the Palestinian cause. To this end, Obama has been seeking a change in US policies and is trying to rebuild trust with the Muslim world. He has vowed US troop withdrawal from Iraq and denied any interest of his country to remain in Afghanistan indefinitely. On the Palestinian issue, Obama has adopted a different approach that is based on the establishment of a permanent Palestinian state as it is prerequisite for the peace process. He has strictly opposed Israeli settlement policy, and has even shown a relatively strict stance against Israel against its approach on the peace process in the Middle East.

If this approach brings hope for a new US policy on Arab and Islamic issues, it would help in bringing about security and stability to the Middle East and support development, coexistence and dialogue, and secure the rights of the aggrieved. The Arab and Muslim world is seeking to work towards investing in these positive approaches in coming times and to avail the opportunity for a new age in relations with the US, based on cooperation, interaction and understanding of priorities and goals.

Arabs and Muslims could play an important role in building trust, and in establishing a new stage by encouraging strong relations with the US and by presenting ideas and views that would help it. They could adopt a joint approach on various contentious issues with the US, so that President Obama and his administration have no difficulty in dealing with Muslims and Arabs and in knowing their real positions and demands.

The US undoubtedly plays an effective role on many issues in the region. It greatly influences the course of events and issues. However, Arabs and Muslims must redouble their efforts in coming times to benefit from the changes in US policy to gain the upper hand over forces that are trying to ruin the reconciliation effort and are hinder any approach with the US.